A well deserved “Thank You” I never got to give

By Kaie QuigleyFeatures Editor

Former “Life Changer of the Year” nominee, Amanda DeBisschop speaks at Leland & Gray Union High School’s graduation in 2018 after the yearbook was dedicated to her by the graduating class.
Photo courtesy of Linda Sperry, The Brattleboro Reformer

As I was transitioning into high school in 2015, I began to ask my older friends about some teachers and classes. Which ones to take and, more importantly, which to avoid. I began to notice a pattern: most of my friends didn’t really “enjoy” any classes they had taken… Unless the class was led by a particular teacher— “Ms. D.” I would come to find out that Ms. D was the best in the business: everyone’s favorite teacher, many students’ friend. Appearing to vanish in the blink of an eye, Amanda DeBisschop will be sorely missed in my high school community.

Any and every class with Ms. DeBisschop was a-okay. Actually, no… it was more than okay. It was fun. It was engaging. The kids wanted to be in the room. DeBischopp had all of the characteristics students sought in a teacher: a relatable, easy-going, understanding, and caring individual who was there for you in education, and in life. Though short in stature and timid as a house mouse, Ms. D. had the biggest heart in the building.

I valued my relationship with Ms. D, even though I wasn’t in any of her clubs and I didn’t eat lunch in her room every day like some other students; some days I wouldn’t even see her. However, she made English interesting, abstract even. She taught me how to read between the lines, to find emotion in words and phrases that may seem asinine. She taught me how to think outside the box. In a world where schools are moving students along into the real world, often without the proper real-world education they need, that is hard to find. She cared deeply about her students’ thoughts and feelings, and still did a bang-up job when it came to teaching a kid how to write an essay. She really was the best of both worlds.

As a high school student, I often felt above it all. I didn’t value the education I was getting there, and my arrogance allowed me to think most teachers there had nothing to teach me.

One year, I was in one of Ms. D’s English classes. I am notoriously bad at doing work on time, and she picked up on that quickly. While I’ve never been affluent in terms of homework, I am always on board for a good class discussion. I would often sit and observe chapter discussions before jumping in after a few anecdotes to add my own thoughts. Mind you, I never read a word of these chapters, and she picked up on that too. 

This surprised me. I was used to fooling my teachers with my wit— I usually did so without complication. However, Ms. D saw right through it. She sat me down after class one day and said, “I know you could pass this class with flying colors without reading a page of this book.” A posh grin formed on my face. “Well that’s what I plan to do,” I thought. But then she continued— “At least read some of the chapters. For me.” I was taken back by the interaction, but her approach worked remarkably well.

I gained a newfound respect for Ms. D. From then on, I wanted to make her proud. That started with reading more of a book than I ever had in school. Much to my surprise, I actually enjoyed the book and was able to gain perspective and learn lessons from it. This taught me to drop my arrogant act and embrace my passion. I was not going to get far by myself, and she knew that. She took it upon herself to help me.

Ms. D. opened doors for me to step through. Without her compassionate hand to guide me through unventured territory, I may have never gotten my start in the field I find myself in today. I spent two years doing an independent study on journalism with her because our school did not teach it in any classes. I started writing for the local newspaper due to her encouragement. She helped me reach out and take my first assignment. I continued to write for print after she was terminated, and I continue to do so to this day, still in my second year of college. Ms. D gave me the confidence that both my writing and character were strong enough to pursue my dreams. She taught me the value of knowing the craft, gaining real world experience, and above all, keeping a kind heart.

There was a lot to thank Ms. D. for, though I and many others never got the chance to do so before her departure. I, as well as the community of students at Leland & Gray, missed this teacher a little bit more than all the rest. Thank you Amanda DeBischopp for all that you have done for me and countless other students. You have changed many lives.

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